NoFollow vs DoFollow Blogs and Your SEO

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A recent discussion and a post shared on Bizsugar brought up the issue of increasing blog comments by creating a “DoFollow” blog.  Prompted by that discussion I’m going to address some of the issues of the rel=nofollow tag and its use in blog comments.

The original article puts forward a strong and well thought out case from a blogger who believes that those who take the time to engage with her blog should be rewarded with some link love. I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view.  I think that rel=nofollow is largely a nonsense.  The problem is that mighty Google pushed rel=nofollow for a reason and there are consequences to whether you use it or don’t.

What is this NoFollow stuff about?
Lets go back to 2005 and read it in Google’s own words:

“From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.”
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/01/preventing-comment-spam.html

That’s pretty simple and it may even be over simplistic.  Basically by nofollowing a link you are saying, “I cannot stand over the content of this site so do not count it as a vote”.  While many feel that nofollowed links do indeed pass some kinds of link value, the simple version is good enough for this discussion.  A link passes search engine value to the site you link to.  If it has “rel=nofollow” this value will not be passed.

What does nofollow look like?
A link in the page source will look like this:
<a href=”http://www.mywebsite.com/”>This is the text that is linked</a>

A nofollow link looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.mywebsite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>This is the text that is linked</a>

Note the addition of rel=”nofollow” into the <a> tag.

Why NoFollow came about
rel=nofollow is an attempt by Google to combat link spam.  Two forms of this are massively prevalent and negatively impacting the quality of Google’s rankings.   One of these is user generated content such as blog comments.  Blog commenting systems and other User Generated Content on websites allow easy ways for spammers to create links on other people’s sites in an attempt to improve their rankings.  You can see from the Google quote that comment spam is a deliberate target of Google’s with the rel=nofollow thing. 

The second big link abuse that Google targets with nofollow is paid links but that’s not really relevant to this post.

By pushing nofollow, Google is asking site owners to mark links from the comments in their blog as content that they do not want to pass votes for.  The links in comments are not put there by you editorially, you do not control them and have not generally even looked at the site they link to so, no vote.  As much as I don’t like “nofollow” and I have sympathy for wanting to reward commenters, this makes sense.

Dofollow vs Nofollow on your blog
The case for allowing links in your comments to pass link value is fairly simple.  When someone comments on  your blog the convention is that they get an opportunity to link to their own content.  That has been the convention for years and it facilitates growth and discussion by giving a small bit back.  NoFollow removes much or all of the search value for this link.  Many just don’t feel it is right to remove that value, so they don’t.

Others want to encourage commenting on their blog and feel that having followed links gives that extra little encouragement for people to comment.  Added to that, you will find that there are probably hundreds of DoFollow blog lists and directories so you might get some links out of it as well.

The NoFollow camp
Now the small problem is that in the NoFollow camp you have some fairly heavy hitters.  Google has pushed rel=nofollow for years.  You are responsible for who you link to in Google’s eyes.  WordPress has added nofollow to comment links for some time now.

Potential cons to the “DoFollow” approach
A decision on whether you want to break with Google and remove “rel=nofollow” from your comment links will come down to understanding what it is you are doing.  If you go for a “dofollow” blog you are opening yourself up to large volumes of borderline comment spam.

This increase goes unnoticed or is not a problem for some and for others is enough to turn them off the “dofollow thing”.

Can it hurt your site?
It certainly can.  Although that is not the same as saying that it definitely will. Let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth on this one:

You are responsible for what you link to in the eyes of the search engines.  Obviously, having a DoFollow blog without comment moderation would be suicide but then you should be heavily moderating your blog comments regardless of whether they are nofollowed.  As mentioned in the post above, you’re going to want some industrial anti spam plugins and that is fine too.

The thing is, we still haven’t got to the actual problem yet.  The real problem will be the hundreds and thousands of comments that look and even perhaps are legitimate that are linking to sites that you aren’t sure you want to be associated with.  That is an extra step to your comment moderation and one that could easily be missed.

You probably carefully choose who you link to in your content, aware that links create various associations in the eyes of the search engines.  You’ve got to ask yourself “What kinds of comments from what kinds of people will this DoFollow change attract?”.

“I don’t advertise do-follow comments on my blogs like some other bloggers do. I have found that the quality of their comments drastically decreases due to the race to get the most inbound links. I want my comments section to be about quality conversation, not links.” www.robsutton.com

Do a search on Google for “find dofollow blogs” just to understand that there is a whole industry out there of people like me looking for holes in Google’s analysis of links.  People who make that search and compile those lists aren’t looking to become part of a community, they are looking for short cuts to rank their site better.  When the world of SEO finds a hole (in this case a way to get easy links it thinks are valuable) they don’t play nice.  When the SEO world finds a hole it tries to drive a bus through it.  These aren’t bad people and many of them aren’t deliberately spamming your blog they are keen to market their site and they are uninformed. 

Your industrial strength spam plugin will be working its socks off to deal with the increase in spammers you see but many of them will get past it.  But it’s the marginal cases that would create a problem for me.  If you go DoFollow with your blog, I think that’s great but if you promote that fact, just be aware that you should plan to do more moderation and make sure that you moderate not just the comment but have a look at the site you link to.

A note on commenting on DoFollow blogs
In the video above, Matt Cutts covers the notion that commenting on DoFollow blogs won’t hurt you but might provide less value than you think.  I’d certainly be very happy if a blog that I liked and was motivated to comment on turned out to be DoFollow but I don’t seek them.  The benefits of blog commenting are not confined to Page Rank from an individual link.  If you are commenting as part of marketing your blog it should be in communities where you want to build relationships.  Where what you say and what they say have a natural fit.  Because, when they become aware of you and if you say something valuable, you might even get a real link and it won’t be from the comments, surrounded by other non-relevant sites and it won’t have your name as its anchor text and it won’t be nofollowed. 

If you need an example, look at the 2 links in this post.  The original article is an interesting post that started a discussion.  It was shared in an online community and because it stimulated a discussion it’s linked to here.  Rob Sutton left an interesting comment in a discussion I found while researching this post.  He contributed on a normal, ordinary, nofollow blog and now he has a link.

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30 Responses to “NoFollow vs DoFollow Blogs and Your SEO”

  1. TJ McCue says:

    I was hoping someone more expert than me would post a lengthy piece about why you want to do this or not do this. I read the post via @BizSugar and you present a solid argument for leaving your blog no-follow. Thanks.

  2. SiteStream SEO says:

    Thanks for stopping by to comment TJ. Whatever way people choose to go on this one, I wanted to outline some of the pros and cons. I am sure there are many DoFollow success stories.

    hmm… I might even look for some for a future post.

  3. There has been so much hype recently about nofollow/dofollow, but this is the best article I’ve seen on the topic. I really like how you’ve spelled out the pros and cons, making it easy for each reader to decide what’s best for his or her blog. Great job.

  4. SiteStream SEO says:

    Thank you Saundra. I am glad you liked it.

  5. Though you do not consider it necessary to comment on Do-follow blogs, but it a reality that they are valued high by Google. If a Do-follow blog-post has got an average content, even then people would like to make comments on them, to get noticed by Google.

  6. google just count the do follow blogs
    so its a wastage of time on no follow
    but thanks for yous work

  7. Sitestream, this is a really good post. I’ve pointed many of my students to this post because dofollow/nofollow is more important than you might think. Large sites that are nofollow may get indexed (Yahoo! Answers as an example), but more often than not, using these sites does not create value for Internet marketers. This is often overlooked and ignored, resulting in time that could be spent more effectively elsewhere. Great post and thanks!

  8. I do both.. nofollow and dofollow links. But give more preference to dofollow links :)

  9. Cyril Parda says:

    Giving a blog talk to beginner bloggers in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be pointing people in the direction of your efforts. Nicely put together dude.

  10. Houston SEO says:

    Most people and i also do nofollow and dofollow links. But the doing work on dofollow ones is a good idea coz Google only counts dofollow ones.

  11. SEO India says:

    Thanks for providing the information about no-follow and do-follow.But commenting on both we can get the traffic only the difference is we can get a backlink from a do-follow comment.

  12. Nice topic for discussion. I am a fan of dofollow blogs combined with moderation. As you can see your getting some “hit and run” comments and this becomes one issue. Also with a dofollow blog you tend to get off topic link builder comments that really starts to hurt the overall link profile of any of the worthy comments. Again moderation is the key. I am I here for the link? Sure, but again it is on topic and my comment some substance. Issues that close moderation cures.

  13. SEO Sitestream, this is a really good post. I’ve pointed many of my students to this post because dofollow/nofollow is more important than you might think. Large sites that are nofollow may get indexed (Yahoo! Answers as an example), but more often than not, using these sites does not create value for Internet marketers. This is often overlooked and ignored, resulting in time that could be spent more effectively elsewhere. Great post and thanks!

  14. Yeah, I have definitely noticed that most sites that do allow “do follow” are kinda spammy. Not all, but most. Also, like Matt Cutts said in the video, so many people post such terrible links on a do follow blog, that it almost makes it worth your while to avoid them.

    I do think that commenting on a no follow blog can still be beneficial for:

    1. Marketing yourself/your blog
    2. Small traffic you may get.
    3. Enjoying conversation with other bloggers

  15. SiteStream SEO says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. There are definitely benefits to blog commenting even on No Follow blogs. They are just more about reaching out than about directly link building. It isn’t the link from the comment that is important. It is the prospect of building a relationship with the blogger and his/her audience. Can be hard to measure / put a value on.

    @FP Internet Marketing – Not sure how but I missed your comment when you posted it. Thanks for stopping by. Those “Hit and Run” comments you mention are just the tip of the iceberg. Just posting about dofollow and blog commenting left me buried in spam. I think the count is 30-1 spam to believable comments. And that is without counting the mountain of trackback spam from irrelevant domains which I think was in the thousands.

  16. I also do blog commenting and guess what No Follow blogs also give me tons of traffic.The trick here is to comment on a related blog and if peoples see s that you are participating well and giving helpful advices,people eventually come and visit your blog….

  17. SiteStream SEO says:

    Yeah. One of the things a lot of people forget about comments is the direct traffic. Contributing well to high traffic, relevant blogs will certainly get you a few visits.

  18. Thank you for a real informative post. I’m sort of new to all this and this whole nofollow, dofollow converation makes my head hurt. It seems to me that they can both be useful in geting links. You may have to get your high pagerank numbers elsewhere, but as long as you contribute quality comments and informative information people will want to know more about you and what you have to offer. It all seems like a crap shoot, you get one piece here, another piece there and so on.

  19. SiteStream SEO says:

    Yeah. Commenting has its place but I would suggest that commenting on other blogs should be about joining the conversation not about link building (not directly anyway).

  20. Anna says:

    Thank you for this post, that is the best and most detailed explanation I have read about nofollow and dofollow so far.

    Just one thing: the post is written in 2010. Now with Google’s algorithm update as of February 2011, has the advice changed? I have got the impression that with the change, being associated with dofollow blogs is bad?

  21. Anna says:

    One more question:

    What about the ‘blogroll’ links? E.g. I have a large amount of categorised links to highly relevant websites on my WordPress.com blog, and want it to stay that way. Which impression of my website does that give to the search engines?

    A WordPress blogroll/link collection is not automatically “nofollow” I suppose?

    I am happy to pass ‘link juice’ to those websites because they are quality websites, that is why I link to them. But does that make my blog look ‘spammy’ in the eyes of the robots?

    Appreciate if you have time to reply to this comment but understand if you don’t… this is an old post after all.

    Thanks.

    Anna

    Ps. an option (tick box) to receive email notifications of comment replies would be great here.

  22. SiteStream SEO says:

    Hi Anna

    Sorry for not replying sooner but I didn’t see this. I can’t see any blogroll links on your blog but in general I wouldn’t be overly concerned as long as you are happy with the quality of the sites you are linking to. There are always extremes. A large number of blogroll links on every page of your blog could leak a lot of link juice for example, or if most of those blogroll links were reciprocated in the blogrolls of the other blogs that could look deceptive. If you are happy with the quality of the sites you link to and you think the links benefit your visitors then I wouldn’t worry about them unless you have some reason to.

    Thanks for the advice on the email notification of comment replies. I keep meaning to look into that.

    Regards
    Alastair

  23. This is really a wonderful blog where you have nicely clarify the difference between do follow links and no follow links. I really able to understand the benefits of do follow and no follow blogs. The video is nice. Thanks for sharing such an informative post.

  24. I think that both are a very impotant tool to have and that everybody with a website they would like to promote should take advantage of these. after all free traffic is the best traffic. More on my blog.

  25. Great post on dofollow and nofollow concept.Due to huge spamming we have to use nofollow even though we like it or not.

  26. This is one of the most sensible and hype free posts that I’ve read on the subject of dofollow/nofollow. I feel that, as an ethical web marketer, you are always walking a spam tightrope. Then google starts shaking the rope…..

  27. This is very interesting post ,This is the perfect explanation and response to the writer who shared the Do-Follow comments post. I’m not dissing that individual, far from it. Hats off if they want to do it, but there are challenges to doing so with the major search engines that are battling spam and sites that are trying to find the loopholes. Read this post if you want to understand pros and cons. Thanks!

  28. Just been doing some linking domain checks on my competitors, it is sooo frustrating to see them blatantly sniffing out high authority ‘do-follows’….while I grit my teeth on the high road and hope that google gives the white hat a break in the future!

  29. This is actually one of the better posts I have found to explain the nofollow and dofollow difference. Not only that but finally gave me more insight into why nofollow was even invented. thanks google

  30. essaywriters says:

    I couldn’t understand the difference before. Thank you, it was very informative. At least, now I know how to protect my site

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